In the face of today’s fast-moving, highly-volatile business world and the ongoing disruptions it brings, many businesses and individuals continue to struggle with the concept of innovation. But according to leading experts (and Merriam Webster’s dictionary), innovation is far simpler than you may suspect: By definition, it’s simply the introduction of something new. But innovating is often far easier said than done: If it were simple, everyone would be doing it, naturally.
Surprisingly though, as we’ve found through our ongoing research, when it comes to innovation, the stumbling blocks both businesses and individuals most commonly encounter aren’t typically related to motivation: we seldom see a lack of enthusiasm or ability from enterprises or working professionals. More often, the biggest challenges that we see time and again in our consulting practice is an unwillingness to press forward when a number of common concerns are confronted. Recognize any of the statements on this list? Chances are, you’re not the only one who may be telling yourself you’re facing similar challenges:
- Change is too expensive or time-consuming
- Others won’t listen to our ideas
- We can’t get the resources and support we need
- Nobody will act on our insights or suggestions
- It’s safer to do the same thing than to try something different
Here’s the thing, though: As scores of interviews with leading experts and innovators reveal, these are just assumptions. Countless leaders in every field are facing the same problems, and countless leaders are succeeding despite the incessant disruption happening all around them. As many of today’s most successful businesses have discovered, the organizations that win with innovation don’t let these challenges become excuses. Instead, they make better assumptions:
- Assume anything can change
- Assume you have the power to innovate
- Assume you are qualified
- Assume you will figure it out
- Assume it may take a few tries, whether others like it or not
These market leaders know that change will happen, whether they accept it or not, and the trick to getting ahead is to keep pushing forward, to keep taking smart risks, and – most importantly – to keep taking action. You can prepare yourself to surf the great tidal waves of change that are inevitably headed your way, or let them crash over your head and carry you along.
Doing nothing is not how people get ahead in organizations, and this is not how organizations develop a competitive advantage in the marketplace. New products, processes and opportunities don’t invent themselves. They’re created through decisive action—action that’s difficult, if not impossible, to take for those who are hesitant to change.
Of course, even in the face of impending changes, not doing things differently may seem like a safe bet, especially the more successful we are – why fix things if they’re not broken? But if you’re sitting still as the market and competitive landscape constantly changes around you, you’re still playing the odds, and run an even greater risk of being left behind. Whatever choice we make, recognize that we are always gambling. You might as well know what you’re betting on.
To succeed you’ve got to adopt a different mindset: One where challenges and constraints are simply problems to be solved. To get ahead, start thinking ahead – then consistently innovate and make the changes your enterprise needs to be in position today with the capabilities, resources and solutions required to be successful tomorrow. Innovation isn’t a one-time activity: It’s an ongoing series of learning experiences and course-corrections, and a practice we must pursue on a constant basis.
Here’s the good news, though: You don’t have to have a formal leadership role to continually drive positive change throughout your enterprise. In fact, the only qualification it takes to lead today is the ability to solve problems and create results. So here’s a thought: Why not promote yourself to the role of Chief Innovation Officer in your career and enterprise today? You may be surprised at just how much of a difference in your ability to create new products, services and solutions, or plow past any stumbling block, this simple shift in mindset makes.